Magellan Scholar Embarks on Unique Culture Study in Turkey, Spain

Created: January 27, 2015
Last Updated: July 9, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Jan. 26, 2015) – In Seville, Spain, Aaron Walayat ’16 found himself walking down a street called “Life.” The Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) junior admits it sounds like something from a dream, but said it also perfectly sums up his Magellan Project experience during the summer of 2014.

Walayat, an International Studies major and Business Administration minor from Loma Linda, California, completed his second Magellan Project last summer, traveling to Spain, Turkey and Morocco to study Muslim culture and architecture.

His original plan was to study religious identity in Russia and India, particularly the close ties of the Russian Orthodox Church with Russian governance, and the Hindu nationalist movement in India. But life had other plans.

When tensions between Russia and Ukraine began to rise his plans quickly changed, and then changed again when a time constraint prevented him from obtaining the paperwork he needed to travel to India. Thinking on his toes, Walayat realized he could salvage his project by staying with a friend’s family in Spain, and studying religious culture in that country instead.

“While the project still retained elements of religious identity, it changed from a qualitative, sociological study to a more historical study of Christian and Muslim culture in Spain – a Christian country formerly Muslim – and Turkey, a Muslim country that was formerly Christian. In Morocco, I could study Muslim architecture comparatively with Turkey,” he said.

Walayat spent a week in Istanbul, Turkey, and two weeks in Spain, including a three-day side trip to Morocco. He studied the influence of religious culture on modern political systems, and conducted research of various scholars’ texts on the topic.

“Magellan has really helped me build connections with civil society all over the world in the fields of human rights, religion and politics, and the like, and an expansive network is something you can’t buy,” he said.

Walayat plans to attend law school after he graduates from W&J, and practice international law. As he traveled, he also took the initiative to study how foreign legal systems are structured, and said he thinks learning about those systems in the county they impact will help him in his career.

Of all the lessons learned from this Magellan Project, Walayat said the one he carries with him is that some of the most important experiences in life are unexpected ones.

“I suppose we can never really tell where life will take us,” he wrote in his Magellan Project Portfolio. “We never know who we will meet. The only thing consistent in life is inconsistency. In reality, plans change, money is lost, and life takes drastic turns, but wandering down una calle llamada Vida – a street called Life – all we can do is wait and see where it will take us.”

 

About the Magellan Project

Established in 2008, Washington & Jefferson College’s unique Magellan Project extends liberal arts learning outside the classroom by providing scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Magellan Project on the W&J website.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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